Theatre Review: The Ladykillers

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Rip-roaring Black Comedy is Bound to Bring a Smile

After a record breaking, sell-out run in 2016 and a successful UK tour, black comedy The Ladykillers returns to London this summer at The Vaudeville. Directed by Sean Foley and adapted from screenplay by Graham Linehan (best known for Black Books, IT Crowd and Father Ted) this show has garnered much attention and accolade including, Best New Play (WhatsonStage 2017).

Opening with sweet old lady Louisa Wilberforce recounting a fanciful tale to long-suffering bobby Constable Macdonald (Blair Plant), in her lopsided home complete with temperamental parrot, the laughs are virtually instanteous. Mrs Wilberforce is soon joined by the very sinister Professor Marcus (John Gordon Sinclair) looking to rent rooms in the ramshackle house. Once installed, we are introduced to the spurious Professor’s eclectic gang of crooks, including a pill-popping cockney (Ralf little) and Romanian hit man (Con O?Neill) posing as amateur musicians whilst planning their latest heist.

The robbery, cleverly played out by toy cars on a backdrop, is foiled by Mrs Wilberforce, and as the gang impress upon the innocent old lady her unwitting culpability, the fall-out amongst gang members is extreme in its hilarity.

Losing some of Ealing studios? genius touch for social satire and the macabre, this adaption of the 1955 classic gains a screwball quality which keeps the laughs coming thick and fast.

Visual and verbal gags are plentiful with the real highlight being an impromptu concert given for the benefit of Mrs Wilberforce’s cronies.

Being fooled by art,? states the swiftly unravelling mastermind, Professor Marcus, as he surreptitiously glances at the audience, ?is one of the primary pleasures of the middle classes?

Stand-out performances are given by the very excellent John Gordon Sinclair as Professor Marcus, who injects proceedings with the momentum necessary to carry off such an energetic farce, and the innately creepy Major Courtney (Simon Day) whose performance of a cross-dressing conman is cheerfully unnerving. Angela Thorne as Mrs. Wilberforce is the very epitome of an eccentric, doddery though nonetheless steely lady.

Some of the routines feel laboured and repetition does nothing to improve these, yet overall, The Ladykillers makes a delightful evening’s entertainment. Ebullient, funny and lively, it would be almost impossible to not to leave The Vaudeville without a smile as this charming play has that ever elusive feel-good factor in spades.